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Good egg

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 24, 2005

In Reply to: Good egg posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 24, 2005

: : Where does "good egg" come from?

: Well, literally a good egg is one that is fit to eat, as opposed to a bad egg which is one that has gone rotten. Now that most of us in the English-speaking world buy eggs that have gone though rigorous quality controls, it is quite rare to crack an egg and find it gluey and smelling of sulphur, but this used to be a common experience. (I have a cookery book written only 50 years ago which advises always breaking eggs into separate cups, so that a bad one won't spoil the rest. Nobody now expects to find a bad egg in a newly-bought box, but only half a century ago you had to assume that you might.) You can't tell from the outside of an egg if it is bad - you have to crack it to find out. So it was a natural metaphor, when a person who had at first sight seemed OK turned out to be a wrong 'un, to call him or her a "bad egg", while someone who proved to be honest and helpful was a "good egg". (VSD)

Well, there's a novelty. All my life I've heard "egg" used as a slang term for "chap" or "cove" by British writers, some of them humorists, and heard it in American coversations used pretty much the same way. A "good egg" was a nice chap, a desirable fellow to know. "Bad egg" appears in the literature with the obvious meaning, "Undesirable, unreliable, almost certainly dishonest chap." But it never occurred to me that "egg" in this sense was to identified with the nature and contents of a real chicken egg. My hat off to you, VSD. SS